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Tip: How to tell which add-on is running in AutoCAD

  • A reader was wondering, "Is there a sysvar (or any other way) for AutoLISP to determine if a vertical such as Civil 3D is running?"
  • An initial response was, "No sysvar or regular Lisp routine does this. I suspect it's available in the higher order APIs, like ARx or VLX."
  • Then I found it. The menu system for Civil 3D is quite different from generic AutoCAD. The following bit of code...
    • (setq VERT (getvar "menuname")
    • VERT (substr VERT (- (strlen VERT) 2)
    • )
    • )
  • ...returns the last three characters of the full path/name of the current menu. This is "c3d" for Civil 3D and "cad" for generic AutoCAD. I assume similar results would come from other AutoCAD-based verticals.
  • I can't guarantee that it is 100% reliable, because it turns out that generic AutoCAD has 11 menu files in its support folder while Civil 3D has 26. Now for the interesting bit; all AutoCAD menus are also in the Civil 3D folder, which is logical, because Civil 3D can be switched back and forth between Civil 3D and generic AutoCAD by switching profiles.
  • Further complicating matters is the fact the MENULOAD command shows that 6 are loaded into generic AutoCAD and 10 into Civil 3D, with some overlaps. My only hope is that MENULOAD seems to display additional customization menu files that have been loaded. It does not seem to display the "Main customization file" which is what is returned by (getvar "menuname") so my routine is probably correct, but as I said I can't 100% guarantee it.
  • As indicated in the comments, it probably returns an appropriate value for other verticals. Here is an the LISP routine indented with comments:
    • ;; Variable VERT contains the last 3 path/filename
    • ;; characters of the to the current menu file:
    • ;; "cad" = AutoCAD
    • ;; "c3d" = Civil 3D
    • ;; Other vertical apps probably return suitable
    • ;; appropriate values.
    • (setq VERT (getvar "menuname")
    • VERT
    • (substr
    • VERT
    • (- (strlen VERT) 2)
    • )
    • )

Tip: The killer tool palette macros, download it here!

  • Previously, Paul Munford wrote a great tip how you can use macros to conveniently work with AutoCAD layout and viewport.
  • If you haven’t follow his tutorial, you really miss those great tools. If you don’t have time to follow the tutorial, Paul Munford shares his tool palette file, so you can just use them.
  • How to: import tool palettes
  • If you never import tool palettes before, you can follow this guide:
  • Download and extract the tool palette to your local drive.
  • In AutoCAD, open your tool palettes. Right click on palette title bar, or click properties button. Choose customize palette from contextual menu.
  • In customize palette dialog, right click inside palettes column. The left column. Click import.
  • Find ACME VPORTS.xtp in folder you placed extracted file before. Click open.
  • This palette should be in the list now. Close this dialog and you should see it’s the active palette now.
  • Open layout and test those tools. You love it don’t you? I know I do!

Tip: DWG Convert

  • AutoCAD 2012 includes a useful tool, DWG Convert, which enables you to translate AutoCAD DWG files to any of the following DWG versions: R14, 2000, 2004, 2007 and 2010. This is for a single file, or multiples, making it useful for batch conversion of older files to the latest release.
  • To access the DWG Convert tool, simply go to the Application Menu (Red A, top left corner) > Save As > DWG Convert. In the DWG Convert dialogue box, you can specify the DWG files to be converted, save the list for future use, create new lists and open/append existing lists.
  • Conversion Setups enable you to specify conversion properties, such as File Format and Path Options. You can specify Conversion Package Type, i.e. Zip File, Exe, In-place. Additional options include Purge Drawings, Replace Page Setups and Check and Fix Errors.
  • You can save multiple Conversion Setups, enabling you to easily restore a specific set of conversion properties.
  • Tip: With your DWG's selected in the DWG Convert dialogue, on the Files Table TAB you will be able to see the current version of your drawings.

Tip:Easily move objects in 3D space with the move grip tool (2007)

  • Moving objects in 3D space has always been somewhat difficult. You could use grips, but it wasn't always easy to visualize in which direction you were moving. The MOVE command was somewhat slow and awkward for 3D moving. In AutoCAD 2007, you can manage the process more easily with the move grip tool. The purpose of this tool is to help you visualize the three axes as you're moving. Note that the default grid also helps. When you select an object, the move grip tool appears automatically (unless you're in the 2D Wireframe visual style).
  • Here are the steps to use it:
    1. With no command active, select an object.
    2. Hover the cursor over any square grip and the move grip tool jumps to that grip.
    3. To move along any axis, pass the cursor over that axis until it turns yellow and you see a thin line (the same color as the axis) extending in both directions.
    4. Click on that axis and move the cursor in either direction along the axis. You can ente a distance or click where you want the grip to go (such as an OSNAP point).
  • To check the current visual style, display the Dashboard (enter dashboard on the command line) and look at the active style in the Visual Styles drop-down list. If you decide that you don't ever want to use the move grip tool, you can set the GTAUTO system variable to 0 (zero).

Tip:Enjoy improved drawing annotation in AutoCAD 2008

  • One of the single largest features in AutoCAD 2008 is the improvements made to annotation objects. Have you ever wanted to specify just one text height as it appears on the plotted output regardless of whether the text was in paper space, model space, or in differently scaled viewports? This is the release for you, as AutoCAD 2008 introduces the concept of annotative scales. You can conveniently access annotation scaling functionality on the status bar.
  • But text isn’t the only application of annotation scaling. You can also apply annotation scaling to dimension styles, hatches, multileaders (new for AutoCAD 2008), and blocks. This means that you can display and plot a hatch pattern in differently scaled viewports while keeping the final size the same. Imagine for a moment, column lines drawn in model space. If you configure the blocks used for the column bubbles as annotative, they will be all be the same size in all paper space viewports regardless of the viewport scale. The Block Definition dialog box has a toggle for configuring the blocks you designate as annotative.

Tip: 3 ways to get the most out of filters (2005/2006/2007)

  • In AutoCAD, you can use filters to quickly select objects in your drawing without having to select them one at a time. The following 3 tips will help you get the most out of your filters:
  • The Express Tools contain two commands that create filters. The FASTSELECT command defines a selection of objects that touch an object that you select. Choose Express | Selection Tools | Fast Select. At the Select touching object: prompt, select an object that touches at least one other object. The command then highlights both the object you selected and all objects that it touches. The FASTSELECT command, which you can use transparently, works on lines, polylines, circles, arcs, attributes, text, mtext, ellipses, and images.
  • A system variable, FSMODE, controls how the FASTSELECT command works. By default, FSMODE is on and FASTSELECT selects only objects that directly touch the object you originally select. However, you can turn FSMODE off (enter fsmode on the ommand line, press [Enter], type off, and press [Enter] again) before starting the FASTSELECT command. In this case, the FASTSELECT command pulls a neat trick—it chains touching objects. For example, after selecting a second object that touches your original object, it checks if any objects touches that second object, continuing until it selects all objects in the chain.
  • The GETSEL Express Tools command creates selection sets from a layer and an object type that you select in your drawing. You might use this when you want to select objects that aren’t visible in the drawing area. Choose Express | Selection Tools | Get Selection Set. For example, if you want to select all ellipses on layer Blue, at the Select an object on the Source layer <*>: prompt, select any object on the Blue layer. Then, at the Select an object of the Type you want <*>: prompt, select any ellipse. The prompt then informs you, Collecting all ELLIPSE objects on layer Blue. The command doesn't highlight the selected objects, but you can use the selection set with the next command using the Previous option.

Tip: Restore the zoom behavior of earlier releases (Autodesk AutoCAD 2007)

  • AutoCAD 2007 is quite impressive, but it does suffer from poor zoom performance. With earlier releases, you started the ZOOM command, specified a window, and as soon as you picked the second corner, boom! The window area enlarged and displayed in the middle of the screen. In AutoCAD 2007, you pick your points and wait for what seems like an eternity.
  • Luckily, there is a way to bring some zip back to your ZOOM command. In AutoCAD 2007, enter VTOPTIONS at the Command prompt to access the View Transitions dialog box. Clear the Enable Animation For Pan & Zoom checkbox and click OK. Alternatively, you can set the VTENABLE system variable to 2. Either way, the ZOOM command in AutoCAD 2007 will now behave like earlier versions by immediately displaying the new view. This is a system level setting which means it applies to the AutoCAD 2007 installation rather than on a drawing-by-drawing basis.

Tip: Use your command line history (2004/2005/2006/2007)

  • A good way to to troubleshoot problems is to use the command line history of any drawing session. Often, it helps to see exactly what you did 10 commands ago. But to get the command line history into a format that you can read, you need to right-click the command line and choose Copy History. Then, open a word processor or Notepad and paste. You’ll see every prompt as well as everything you typed.
  • If you don't need the entire history, you can copy just part of it. First, press [F2] to open the Text window. Scroll up to the part you need and select it. Then, right-click to choose Copy and then paste just that section into another document.
  • This technique is especially useful to print out the long results of a LIST or SETVAR command. These can sometimes run several pages.
  • Another way to reuse your command line history is to re-execute commands. Right-click the command line area and point to the Recent Commands item. You then see a list of your recent commands. Choose the one that you want run again.
  • Note that you can't re-execute custom commands. For example, if you have a custom command that ends after one line, you'll just see the standard LINE command on the command line and won't be able to repeat the special options that you added.
  • However, there is a little-known way to repeat a custom command, but only immediately after you used it once. Right-click on the shortcut menu and choose the command from this list.

Tip: Easily move objects between model and paper space (2007/2008)

  • Sometimes you may need to move objects from paper space to model space, or vice versa. For example, you may have an old drawing that has the titleblock in model space and you may want to put it on a layout. On the other hand, you may have placed text in paper space and decide that you want it in model space instead.
  • The CHSPACE command can accomplish this task for you easily and quickly. This command was originally part of the Express Tools set of commands, so you can find it there in earlier releases, but starting in AutoCAD 2007 it entered the big time as a core AutoCAD command.
  • You need to be on a layout to use CHSPACE. Therefore, start by clicking a layout tab. If you don’t have the tabs displayed, click the Layout button on the Status bar.
  • You now need to enter the space that contains the object you want to move. This makes sense, since you’ll need to select the object that you want to move. If you want to move an object from model spce to paper space and you’re in paper space, double-click inside any viewport that displays the object to enter model space.
  • On the other hand, if you want to move an object from paper space to model space, you need to be in paper space. If you’re already in model space on the layout, double-click outside any viewport to switch to paper space.
  • Now choose Modify | Change Space from AutoCAD’s menu or type chspace on the command line. At the Select objects: prompt, select the object or objects you want to move and end selection.

Tip: Gain multi-layered improvements in AutoCAD 2008

  • We use layers in our drawings every day. They help with everything from selecting of objects of a particular type to plotting with different pen weights. Because layers are such an integral part of drawing, you'll be happy to know that AutoCAD 2008 has a number of enhancements to help you manage and work with layers much more smoothly.
  • Read More About This Tip Click Here > Auto Cad Tips

Tip: Link text in your drawing to outside sources

  • It's no secret that CAD drawings contain a lot of information. Much of that data can be presented as text. The trouble is that this text is often common between drawings or is already contained elsewhere for presentation in formats other than CAD documents. Another scenario is that the data is subject to frequent changes or editing by someone who doesn't use AutoCAD. If you've experienced any of these situations, you understand why it's beneficial to have the information in your drawings linked to an outside source. Luckily, AutoCAD has a number of easy-to-use tools that can help you display text efficiently.
  • Read More About This Tip Click Here > Auto Cad Tips

Tip: Automatically return to plan view when you change the User Coordinate System (UCS)

  • In a 3D drawing, you may save several User Coordinate Systems (UCSs). As you work, you may change the viewpoint in any UCS. When you switch from one UCS to another, the viewpoint doesn’t change; only the UCS icon moves to its new origin and direction.
  • Sometimes, you may want to get your bearings in the new UCS by returning to plan view. If you find yourself using the PLAN command, or switching to the Top viewpoint whenever you change UCSs, trying changing the UCSFOLLOW system variable instead. This system variable is off (a value of 0) by default. When you change its value to 1, your drawing automatically returns to plan view whenever you switch to a different UCS.

Tip: Create great presentation drawings with Visual Styles

  • If you've ever played around with rendering or photo-realistic presentation drawings in previous versions of AutoCAD, you quickly learned that there was a huge learning curve. More often than not, trial and error were the best methods for getting the results you needed. In addition, it wasn't easy to create a drawing with mixed types of presentation graphics. Combining 2D line work, 3D hidden wireframe, rendered images, and special effects within the same sheet was not an easy task.
  • Read More About This Tip Click Here > Auto Cad Tips

Tip: Automatically fill in title block data in AutoCAD

  • You can save time and avoid errors in the title block by using a field in an attribute. To do this, open the title block drawing, double-click the attribute used to hold the filename, right click in the Default text box in the Edit Attribute Definition dialog box, and choose Insert Field.
  • In the Field dialog box that opens, choose Document from the Field Category dropdown list, choose Filename from the Field Names list, choose a format, choose the other options as required, and then click OK.

Tip: Easily keep your drawings in line with AutoCAD’s Standards tools

  • Whether or not you're a fan of CAD standards, or even have a defined set of CAD standards, AutoCAD's Standards tools have something to offer you. The CAD Standards tools in AutoCAD not only allow you to enforce, check, and change corporate standards, but also come in handy as a conversion tool. Anytime you need to manage layers, dimension styles, text styles, or linetypes AutoCAD's Standards tools are the ticket. This article covers several aspects of CAD Standards functionality in AutoCAD.

Tip: Be a layer groupie with layer filters (2004/2005/2006/2007)

  • Two buttons in the upper left corner of the Layer Properties Manager dialog box allow you to create named sets of layer selections. Invoking the name of a named set either shows only the named set in the layer name list or you can invert it to show everything except the layers in the set.
  • These group filters are extremely easy to use. Create a group filter by clicking the New Group Filter button. A new entry appears in the tree structure, where you can rename it if you want. Click on the All entry in the tree so that all layer names are listed. Then simply drag and drop the desired layers onto the new group’s tree entry. You can use the usual [Shift]-select and [Control]-select methods to pick multiple layers. Now single-click on the group’s entry in the tree and watch in amazement as all the layer names disappear from the list except for the ones you included in the group.
  • The Invert button reverses the list so that it shows all layers except for the ones in your group. The Apply To Layers Toolbar check box echoes the current list to the Layers toolbar drop-down list.
  • You can add layers to a group at any time. Just select the All tree item, then drag and drop as before. To remove layers from a group, activate the group, right-click on a layer or selection of layers, and then click on Remove From Group Filter.

Tip: Banish the @ symbol in AutoCAD 2006

  • Would you like to banish the @ symbol completely? In AutoCAD 2006, you can. With the new Dynamic Input feature on, all coordinate entries default to relative coordinates. But what if you need an absolute coordinate? Then you type # before the coordinate. This makes more sense because you use relative coordinates a lot more than you use absolute ones.

Tip: Combine line segments and arcs into one polyline (2002/2004/2005/2006)

  • You can change any line or arc into a polyline. Start the PEDIT command and choose any line or arc. At the "Object selected is not a polyline. Do you want to turn it into one? <Y>" prompt, press Enter to accept the default and turn the object into a polyline. (To suppress this prompt, change the PEDITACCEPT system variable to 1. Any non-polyline objects that you select for the PEDIT command automatically become polylines.) Next, use the Join option of the PEDIT command and select the other lines or arcs. Note that the individual lines and arcs must connect exactly end to end. However, if you use the Multiple option, you can even join lines that aren’t exactly touching.

Tip: Utilizing different views with 3-D orbit (2002/2004/2005/2006)

  • If you need a different view while drawing or editing in 3-D, you can use 3-D orbit mode transparently (in the middle of another command). Start any command, type '3dorbit', and press Enter. Then you can rotate your model as necessary, and press Esc or Enter to close 3-D orbit mode. Then continue with the original command.

Tip: Create concentric objects fast with grip-editing

  • You probably know that you can create concentric objects using the OFFSET command, but did you know that you can use grip-editing to do the same thing? If you know the scale factor of each new ob-ject, this is the way to go. Select the object and make any grip hot. Press Enter until you see the SCALE prompt. Use the Base Point option to specify the cen-ter of the object, if necessary. Then use the Copy op-tion. Now all you need to do is specify scale factors; you can specify as many as you want to create mul-tiple objects.

Tip: Select all block instances in one smooth move (2005/2006/2007)

  • In the Quick Select dialog box (since AutoCAD 2005), if you choose Block Reference as the object type, Name as the property, and then choose from the names of blocks in the drawing in the Value drop-down list, you select all instances of that block.

Tip: Use this trick to quickly find colored objects (2005/2006/2007)

  • Color is one of the available properties in the Quick Select dialog box, but it only finds objects that were directly set to that color. What is doesn’t find are objects on a layer that you defined with that color. For example, if you have a green layer called Dim, you won't find objects on the Dim layer if you filter for green colored objects. Instead, you need to set the property to Layer and the value to Dim. This finds objects on the Dim layer, which are green, of course.

Tip: Create a one-line toolbar button (2006/2007)

  • If you draw lines one at a time, you can create a toolbar button that ends the LINE command after one line segment. Then you don't need to press Enter to end the LINE command.
  • To create the button, enter cui to open the Customize User Interface dialog box. Click the New button in the Command List area. In the Properties section, enter ^C^C_line;\\; in the Macro text box, and 1Line in the Name text box. Use the Button Editor to create an image for your button. Then find your new command in the Command List and drag it to any toolbar. Click OK to save the menu change.

Tip: Create multi-arrow leaders(2004/2005/2006/2007)

  • It's common to need leaders that point to more than one location. AutoCAD doesn't offer an automatic method, but this quick technique is almost as good. Start by creating the leader as usual by choosing Dimension | Leader and following the prompts. Then select the leader and click the arrowhead's grip. At the stretch grip prompt, use the Copy option. Now simply specify the additional endpoints that you want and press [Enter].
  • Something strange happens in AutoCAD 2007, though. If the leader ends on an object, when you add new arrows and press Enter, they seem to disappear! However, they're really on top of the original arrow due to their association with the object. You can move them with grip-editing to the desired location.

Tip: Combine, splice, and dice 2D objects (2004/2005/2006/2007)

  • Suppose you would like to create an object that is the intersection of two other objects. Or perhaps you would like to combine two objects or subtract one from the other. If you commonly work in 3D, this is a very familiar scenario, but if you don't, you may not be aware that you can perform these operations on 2D objects.
  • You use the REGION command to create 2D surfaces that act a little like 3D objects, such as:
    • Create holes in them or otherwise subtract one object from another.
    • Create an object from the intersection of two or more of them.
    • Combine objects together.
  • Let's say that you want to create an object that is the intersection of a rectangle and circle.You could do a lot of trimming and erasing, but you could try a simpler procedure—converting the objects to regions and performing the INTERSECT command on them. Just start the REGION command (it's on the Draw toolbar) and select the two objects. Then use the INTERSECT command and select the two regions again.

Tip: Quickly draw a line relative to an existing point (2002/2004/2005/2006)

  • Sometimes you need to draw a line (or other object) relative to an existing point. For example, you may know that your new line needs to be 4 units to the right and 4 units up from an object snap of an existing object. Let’s say we need to start drawing a window pane 4" in the X and Y direction from the lower-left corner of the window’s frame.
  • One method is to use the FROM feature. Start the LINE command. At the first prompt, press [Shift] and right-click to display the Object Snap shortcut menu. Choose From. At the Base Point: prompt, specify the object snap on the existing object. At the Offset: prompt, enter the offset preceded by the @ symbol. For example: @4,4.

Tip: Get the most out of layers with Express Tools layer utilities (2004/2005/2006)

  • The Express Tools set of utilities is great for manipu-lating layers. These tools enable you to quickly com-plete a task that would take significantly longer oth-erwise. Using these tools on a daily basis will help you to breeze through your work.
  • Note: When you install AutoCAD, the main installa-tion screen includes a link to install Express Tools. If you didn’t install them, you can do so at any time by inserting the AutoCAD CD in your CD-ROM drive. If you installed Express Tools, but you don’t have the Express menu item, enter expressmenu on the command line. If that doesn’t work, you may need to load the tools by typing expresstools on the com-mand line.
  • You can find the tools from the Express menu item, you can use the Express Tools toolbars (right-click to the right of the Properties toolbar and choose Express), or you can enter the commands on the command line. Here’s a rundown of these tools and what they can do:
    • LAYWALK. Lists the number of objects on each layer, counts layers, saves layer states, and purges unused layers.
    • LAYMCH. Changes the layer of a selected object to match that of another selected object.
    • LAYCUR. Changes a selected object’s layer to the current layer.
    • COPYTOLAYER. Both copies an object and changes its layer at the same time.
    • LAYISO. Turns off all layers except the layer of a selected object.
    • LAYVPI. Freezes all layers except the layer of a selected object in all viewports except the current one.
    • LAYOFF. Turns off the layer of a selected object.
    • LAYON. Turns on all layers.
    • LAYFRZ. Freezes the layer of a selected object.
    • LAYTHW. Thaws all layers.
    • LAYLCK. Locks the layer of a selected object.
    • LAYULK. Unlocks all layers.
    • LAYMRG. Changes the layer of all objects on one layer to another layer and purges the unused layer.
    • LAYDEL. Deletes all objects from a layer and purges the unused layer.
  • Try out a few of these tools in your work and you’re sure to find a use for them. You may wonder how you did without them!

Tip: Banish the @ symbol (AutoCAD 2006)

  • Would you like to banish the @ symbol completely? In AutoCAD 2006, you can. With the new Dynamic Input feature on, all coordinate entries default to relative coordinates. But what if you need an absolute coordinate? Then you type # before the coordinate. This makes more sense because you use relative coordinates a lot more than you use absolute ones.

Tip: Utilizing different views with 3-D orbit (2002/2004/2005/2006)

  • If you need a different view while drawing or editing in 3-D, you can use 3-D orbit mode transparently (in the middle of another command). Start any command, type '3dorbit', and press Enter. Then you can rotate your model as necessary, and press Esc or Enter to close 3-D orbit mode. Then continue with the original command.

Tip: When you crash!(2002/2004/2005/2006)

  • If AutoCAD crashes and you need to find a backup drawing, look for files with the same name as your drawing, but with the .bak and .ac$ file extensions. If your computer doesn't show filename extensions for BAK and AC$ drawings, open Windows Explorer and choose Tools > Folder Options. Click the File Types tab. Choose BAK from the list of extensions. Now click the Advanced button and check the Always Show Extension check box. Click OK. Do the same for the AC$ extension.

Tip: Using the displacement method (2006)

  • The MOVE and COPY commands remember the most recent displacement throughout a session. You need to use the displacement method, not the base point/second point method. To use the displacement method, start the command and select the object. At the first prompt, specify the displacement in x,y format (with no @ symbol). At the second prompt, press Enter. The next time you use the command, press Enter at the "Specify base point or [Displacement] <Displacement>:" prompt. At the "Specify displacement <2.0000, 3.0000, 0.0000>:" prompt, the angled brackets display the last displacement that you used (2,3 in this example). Press Enter to move or copy the object using this displacement.

Tip: Customizing sample text for MText (2005/2006)

  • When you specify the corners of the MText box, you see sample text at the cursor to give you an idea of the actual current height of the text. You can change the sample text with the MTJIGSTRING system variable.

Tip: Combine line segments and arcs into one polyline (2002/2004/2005/2006)

  • You can change any line or arc into a polyline. Start the PEDIT command and choose any line or arc. At the "Object selected is not a polyline. Do you want to turn it into one? <Y>" prompt, press Enter to accept the default and turn the object into a polyline. (To suppress this prompt, change the PEDITACCEPT system variable to 1. Any non-polyline objects that you select for the PEDIT command automatically become polylines.) Next, use the Join option of the PEDIT command and select the other lines or arcs. Note that the individual lines and arcs must connect exactly end to end. However, if you use the Multiple option, you can even join lines that aren’t exactly touching.

Tip: Calculate area and perimeter (AutoCAD 2002/2004/2005/2006)

  • The AREA command can calculate not only area but perimeter as well. You can even use the Add option to add two closed areas together and get the total. If you need to calculate the area of complex shapes, try using the BOUNDARY command first to generate a boundary object. You can then calculate the area of the boundary. AutoCAD 2006 has two new features that calculate area: The RECTANG command has a new Area option and you can now find the area of a hatch in the Properties palette.

Tip: Put your drawings on a web site (AutoCAD 2002/2004/2005/2006)

  • Many people are unaware of the Publish To Web feature which helps you easily create a web page that displays drawings in DWF, JPG, or PNG format. You don't need to know any HTML, all the code is created for you. Choose File | Publish To Web and follow the wizard's prompts. You can choose from a few templates and layouts. You can even choose to make the original drawings downloadable with the i-drop feature. Then, post the page. To see your page, load acwebpublish.htm at the location you uploaded to.

Tip: Banish the @ symbol (AutoCAD 2006)

  • Would you like to banish the @ symbol completely? In AutoCAD 2006, you can. With the new Dynamic Input feature on, all coordinate entries default to relative coordinates. But what if you need an absolute coordinate? Then you type # before the coordinate. This makes more sense because you use relative coordinates a lot more than you use absolute ones.

Tip: Creating custom linetypes on the fly (AutoCAD  2002/ 2004/ 2005/ 2006)

  • Need a quick, simple linetype and don't want to mess around with editing linetype files? Use the command-line form of the LINETYPE command, which is -linetype (with a leading hyphen). Choose the Create option. You'll be prompted to save the linetype in the default acad.lin file. Then you name the linetype and add some descriptive text.
  • Hint: Descriptive text often mimics the linetype. For example, you might use --. as the descriptive text for a linetype that has two dashes and a dot. Then you enter the linetype pattern after the A, that appears on the command line (because all linetype definitions start with A,).
  • All you need to know is the following:
    • For a dash, use a positive number whose value is the desired length of the dash. For example, use .5 for a dash that is 1/2 unit long.
    • A dot is 0 (zero).
    • For a space, use a negative number, whose value is the width of the space. For example, use -.25 for a space that is 1/4 units long.
    • Put a comma between each item, with no spaces, and keep the entire definition within 80 characters.
  • This linetype is made up of two dashes, each .5 units long, and a dot. There are .25 unit spaces between each element. A,.5,-.25,.5,-.25,0,-.25
  • When you press [Enter], AutoCAD saves the linetype to the file you specified. You need to load the linetype and then you can use it.

Tip: Mirroring with grips (AutoCAD 2002/2004/2005/2006)

  • While the regular MIRROR command defaults to keep the original object, the Mirror option when you grip-edit deletes them. The trick is to use the Copy option -- which exists for all the grip-editing commands -- and then your original objects stay put.

Tip: Creating custom command shortcuts (AutoCAD 2002/2004/2005)

  • The acad.pgp file contains aliases, which are shortened versions of commands. For example, you can type just the letter "l" instead of "line" to start the LINE command. Many people think that these shortcuts are the fastest way to start commands. AutoCAD comes with an excellent set of aliases, but you can add your own or change existing ones. To edit the acad.pgp file, choose Tools | Customize | Edit Program Parameters (acad.pgp) from the menu. The file opens in Notepad. AutoCAD 2005 has a new User Defined Command Aliases section at the end that you should use; aliases in this section override aliases in the main section. If you're using an earlier version, back up the file first.
  • To edit an existing alias or add your own, follow the format of existing aliases. (You'll need to scroll down to get past the introductory material.) It's very simple: enter the shortcut on the left followed by a comma, add a few spaces, and enter the entire command on the right preceded by an asterisk (*). Save the file and close it. To use your new aliases immediately, you need to initialize the file. Type reinit on the command line and press [Enter]. Check the PGP File check box in the Re-initialization dialog box and click OK. You're ready to speed up command entry!

Tip: Repeating a custom command on a toolbar (AutoCAD 2002/2004/2005)

  • If you create a custom command and put it on a toolbar, after using that command, you can right-click and choose the top option of the shortcut menu to repeat that custom command. Pressing [Enter], the usual way to repeat a native AutoCAD command, doesn't provide the same effect.

Tip: Add any symbol on your system to Mtext (2002/2004/2005)

  • AutoCAD has a selection of special symbols that you can add to text. In the Mtext Editor, right-click and choose Symbol. (In AutoCAD 2002, click the Symbol button on the Character tab.) Then choose one of the symbols from the submenu that opens. If the symbol you want isn't there, click Other to open the Windows Character Map dialog box. From the Font dropdown list, choose the font that you want to use or that best matches your AutoCAD font. Click any of the symbols in the Character Map. Now click the Select button, and then click the Copy button. Finally, click the Close button. Back in the Mtext Editor, press [Ctrl]V to paste the symbol into the editor.

Tip: Troubleshooting xrefs (2002/2004/2005)

  • If you're having problems with your xrefs (external references), you can create an xref log that lists every action related to xrefs, such as loading and unloading. Set the XREFCTL system variable to 1 to create this log as you work. You'll find the log file in the same folder as your drawing, with the same name as the drawing, but the file extension will be .xlg. Note that this file can quickly get very long, so regularly delete or prune it.

Tip: Managing layers more quickly (2002/2004/2005)

  • You can modify more than one layer at a time. First select the layers that you want to modify. Choose Layer Properties Manager from the Layers toolbar (in AutoCAD 2002, choose Layers from the Object Properties toolbar) to access the Layer Properties Manager dialog box. Then, right-click and choose Select All or choose a range of layers by clicking the first layer's name, holding down the [Shift] key and clicking on the last in the range. Choose multiple individual layers by pressing [Ctrl] as you choose each additional layer. For easy selection, remember that you can sort the listing by any column. For example, if you want to change all your red layers to magenta, click the word "Color" at the top of the Color column to sort all your layers by color. You can now easily select all the red layers to change their color. Now, make any changes to any one of the selected layers. Your change affects all the selected layers.

Tip: Finding the length of an arc (2000/2002/204/2005)

  • Although there are multiple options for the ARC command, none of them let you specify the actual length of the arc segment itself.  (The closest option available lets you specify the length of the chord.)  What can you do for those instances when you really must specify an exact length for the arc segment?  Use the LENGTHEN command.
  • After creating a arc with the proper radius and starting point and any convenient  length, type Lengthen at the command prompt or choose Modify | Lengthen from the main menu. AutoCAD responds with the following prompt:
  • Select an object or [DElta/Percent/Total/DYnamic]:
    • At this point, you can start by choosing the arc to modify or you can indicate the new length. Whichever way you begin, the result is the same. If you select the arc first, AutoCAD give you its current length and included angle.
    • The four options for changing the arc's length are self-explanatory, but we'll cover them quickly.
    • DElta: you indicate a fixed distance (or angle) to add or subtract from the current length (or included angel);
    • Percent: you indicate a percentage of the current length;
    • Total: you indicate the new total length;
    • Dynamic: you indicate the final length by moving the cursor.

Tip: Sizing OLE text objects (2005)

  • AutoCAD 2005 added a new system variable: MSOLESCALE.  This variable controls the initial size of text-based OLE objects inserted into model space of the current drawing. It acts as a scale factor for the OLE object.
  • There are two things to note: Changing the value of MSOLESCALE does *not* affect the size of OLE objects already in the drawing. If MSOLESCALE's current value is 0 (zero), than AutoCAD uses the value of DIMSCALE as the scale factor for OLE objects.

Tip: Who has that drawing open? (2000/2002/2004/2005)

  • Here's a tip for those of you sharing drawings i a networked environment: AutoCAD provides two methods for finding out who, if anyone, is currently working on a drawing. Typing WHOHAS at the command prompt opens the Select Drawing to Query dialog box, which is similar to the standard Select File dialog box. After choosing a drawing file, click on Open to display an AutoCAD Alert box, which gives you the following information:
    • Drawing's path and name
    • User's login ID
    • User's computer name
    • User's full name (if available)
    • Day, date, and time drawing was opened
  • If the selected drawing isn't in use by anyone, the alert box simply displays the drawing's path and name and lists the user as Unknown.
  • As for the second method, anytime you attempt to open a drawing that is already in use, AutoCAD displays an Alert box showing
    • Drawing's path and name
    • User's login ID
    • User's computer name
  • AutoCAD also gives you an option to open the drawing in read-only mode.

Tip: Undocumented: Maximum zoom without regeneration (2000/2002/2004/2005)

  • If you're working on a really large or complex drawing in which you want to avoid unnecessary drawing regenerations, you've probably set REGENAUTO to 0 (off).  In which case, if you issue a Zoom command that requires AutoCAD to zoom beyond its virtual window, you'll get an AutoCAD Alert box warning: About to regen-Proceed?  The Alert box offers exactly two options: OK and Cancel.
  • Thanks to an undocumented command, you actually have a third option.  At the command prompt, type Zoom, then Vmax (or simply V). This zooms to AutoCAD's maximum virtual window without causing a regeneration. This final view may not always work for the task at hand, but at least you'll know just how far you can go without forcing a regeneration.